Injured Cop Files Premises Liability Claim

Cops face a lot of danger on the job; from fights and gunfire to drunk and disorderly drivers and other dangerous conditions. A New York City police officer is now trying to hold the property owner and manager of an apartment complex responsible for the injuries that he suffered while responding to a call on their property - through a premises liability claim.

Responding to a drug call, Lieutenant James Giblin, a 26-year veteran of the New York City police force, and his partner approached a group of individuals suspected of dealing drugs on the property. One of the individuals in the group tried to run from the cops as they approached. As Lt. Giblin attempted to stop the individual from getting away, a small clash ensued, during which Lt. Giblin was bitten on the cheek.

The bite left Lt. Giblin with a severe gash, which became infected. Lt. Giblin claims that the attack left him permanently disfigured and in need of reconstructive surgery. Doctors are also monitoring Lt. Giblin for infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

Now, Lt. Giblin is trying to hold the property owner and building manager responsible for the attack through a premises liability claim. The claim states that the property owner and building manager negligently, recklessly and carelessly controlled the property, and Lt. Giblin was attacked because of this poor control.

Further, the claim asserts that the property was a known "haven for crime," and that there were a number of issues that made the property unsafe for guests and residents. Specifically, the lawsuit claims that a concrete slab prevented the apartment's door from closing properly, that locks and other safety features were missing from doors, and that there were no security cameras on the property, all of which are forms of insufficient security.

Premises Liability

Lt. Giblin's lawsuit against the property owner and building manager is a premises liability claim, which most often involves proving negligence. Premises liability is based on the idea that a property owner owes a certain duty of care to individuals who enter onto the property. Among the duties that are owed are duties to protect the safety of others, including protecting others from defects on the property or other dangerous conditions - such as dangerous people.

There are four elements that a plaintiff must prove in a negligence (premises liability) claim:

  1. The defendant has a duty to conform to a standard of conduct;
  2. The defendant breached that duty;
  3. The defendant's breach was the actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries; and
  4. The plaintiff was actually injured.

Lt. Giblin's premises liability claim is based on a third party's criminal action. Generally, a property owner does not have to ensure the safety for, and therefore be liable for, unforeseeable criminal actions, such as a suspect biting a cop. However, the key is "unforeseen."

In the lawsuit, it is claimed the apartment building's owner and manager were aware of the dangerous conditions, or lax safety measures, and that these hazardous conditions encouraged illegal and dangerous activity on the property. Further, the apartment building's owner and manager were specifically aware that these conditions were leading to criminal activity as the police had been regularly called to investigate crimes at this specific property - meaning that these dangerous issues were known.

Challenges Faced In Lt. Giblin's Premises Liability Lawsuit

New York University School of Law professor Richard Epstein notes that Lt. Giblin is facing an uphill battle with this lawsuit. First, Prof. Epstein notes that the job of a police officer has an inherent "degree of risk." Second, Prof. Epstein states that if you allow Lt. Giblin's lawsuit, you will start to see "thousands" of lawsuits involving cops.

Another challenge that Lt. Giblin's lawsuit faces is that, typically, when a police officer is injured on the job, even when it is by a suspect's actions, the injuries are addressed and compensated for through a workers' compensation claim. Workers' compensation claims do not bar an injured victim from suing a third party when that third party is responsible for the injuries suffered. A typical instance of a third-party lawsuit that is brought by an injured victim would be a delivery driver who is side-swiped and injured while making deliveries. That driver can sue the person that caused the injuries. While the dangerous aspects of police work may make the third-party lawsuit very difficult in this instance, it isn't impossible.

Premises liability actions are available for many people that are injured on another's property. Whether your injuries stem from an assault due to minimal or nonexistent security measures or you slipped and fell, a negligence claim allows you to seek compensation for your injuries. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you seek recovery for pain and suffering, medical bills and lost wages.